Producer Dan Schneider, the creator of some of television’s most-watched children’s and young adult shows for Nickelodeon before splitting under murky circumstances, has finally addressed what happened.
Schneider and Nickelodeon parted ways in 2018. At the time, Nickelodeon was the highest-rated network on basic cable, and Schneider was the most successful producer in children’s television, with a resume that included the creation and production of such hit shows as iCarly, Drake & Josh, Victorious, Kenan & Kel and Henry Danger.
Now, in his first major interview since splitting with Nickelodeon, he spoke to the New York Times, and indicated he may be planning a comeback from exile.
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ViacomCBS, the parent company of Nickelodeon, investigated Schneider before the 2018 split. The Times article said that investigation saw Schneider’s coworkers praised his attention to detail and work ethic, but also indicated that many people he worked with viewed him as verbally abusive.
Schneider defended his leadership style in the interview. He also claimed he did not part from Nickelodeon on bad terms, but said it was the result of an “exhausting” period that required delivery of as many as 50 episodes of shows each year.
“I took a break to take care of a lot of stuff that I’d let go by the wayside for decades,” Schneider said. He lost more than 100 pounds since leaving, and said he still burns to do something. “Whatever I do next, I want it to outdo what I’ve done in the past.”
The interview also touched on a more controversial aspect of Schneider’s departure. Internet postings and videos compiled by online denizens raised questions about his interactions with the child actors on his shows. Certain shots in the shows of bare feet and sexual innuendo in some of the jokes were taken as evidence of something darker.
Schneider said to the Times that the postings were “ridiculous,” and lamented on how social media can amplify “any lie.” He denied any attempts at sexualizing his young actors.
“The comedy,” he said, “was totally innocent.”
The ViacomCBS investigation came at the height of the 2018 emergence of the #MeToo movement. The Times story claimed that the investigation yielded no evidence of sexual misconduct by Schneider.
The investigation did find, however, allegations that he could be verbally abusive at times to coworkers, with tantrums and angry emails a part of the claims. Those interviewed for the investigation – whom the Times did not identify – also cited his requests for shoulder and neck massages, and his habit of texting child actors outside of work hours.
Schneider would not discuss the specifics of the ViacomCBS investigation. He did say, “I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t have the long-term friendships and continued loyalty from so many reputable people if I’d mistreated my actors of any age, especially minors.”
He added that if he was found to be difficult by some people, it was because he has “high standards. I’m very willing to defend creative things that I believe in,” he said.
Schneider said interactions with fans online was done “only in very public ways,” and said, “I never interacted with actors in any way, texting or otherwise, that should make anyone uncomfortable.”
The interview with Schneider took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel over three hours. Schneider hinted at a comeback pilot, described as “ambitious and very different” that he has written and sold to another network.
The new show, Schneider said, will be designed for “more of an adult audience.” He said he is also working simultaneously on a pilot meant for kids and their families.
As for Nickelodeon, Schneider said he has no ill will and wished everyone involved in the iCarly revival currently airing on the channel “the best.”